Olympic Wrestling needs to jump through two sizable hoops which stand between it and its salvation. The first is this week as the IOC executive board meets to tap one to three sports for consideration for addition to the Olympic program. The executive board, if you remember, is the body which, months ago, recommended a revised block of Olympic "core sports" for the 2020 Olympics and beyond. Wrestling was not one of those included in the block.
This meant that wrestling got thrown into the hopper with a bunch of non-Olympic sports seeking new admittance into the Games. The executive board will now determine whether one to three of those sports are worthy of Olympic consideration. If wrestling is not among one of those three, it will not be an Olympic sport in 2020, and probably beyond.
If wrestling is picked by the executive board this week, its future is still uncertain. It must face the scrutiny of the assembled IOC this September in Buenos Aires. This fall's IOC assembly will pick the host for the 2020 Olympics, pick a new IOC president (Jacques Rogge is on his way out), vote on the executive board's core sport recommendation, and then vote on whether to add one of the sports picked from this week's proceedings.
It's the last of those votes which are of particular interest to wrestling. Technically it is possible that the IOC assembly does not ratify the executive board's new core sport block, thus reverting the Olympic program back to its 2012 form. I say technically possible, because this scenario is not likely. All that is required for ratification is a simple majority of IOC members, and if no majority is reached on the first vote, IOC president Rogge may ask for as many re-votes as he sees fit. The procedures really favor the executive board's recommendation.
So if wrestling survives past this week, it must beat out the other sports that survive the present cut, and be accepted by the IOC assembly with a majority of votes. There is no guarantee that wrestling will edge its competition, or even that the assembly will choose to add any sports to the newly established program. The assembly, in the past, has declined to add new sports given a similar opportunity.
Wrestling will undergo a serious trial in the coming days, and even if it survives, its future is still far from certain.
Thoughts on University Nationals ...
Tyrell Fortune's wrestling career has certainly been an odyssey with many twists and turns. He may never compete for a Division I national championship, but at least wrestling has afforded him the chance to receive a college education, and to vie for an Olympic spot. He's going to be dangerous come 2016.
I guess I simply forgot how special Andrew Howe is. If this tournament truly indicates that he is back and healthy, our country has one of its very best pound-for-pound wrestlers back. Too bad he isn't 20 pounds lighter or heavier.
Ed Ruth hasn't looked quite as good at senior level freestyle events as I would have expected in the past. Regardless, I still see him as one of the favorites to make the 2016 Olympic Team in 2016 at 84 kilos. Yes, I know it's freestyle, but Cam Simaz was an NCAA champ two weights up from Ed; for Ed to go out and beat him says a ton about his talent level.
Ed Ruth earned OW honors at University Nationals (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Speaking of the future, I unabashedly believe that Andy Hrovat has the potential to become one of the brightest freestyle coaching minds in this country. His time spent in Ossetia provides him with a unique and invaluable perspective. It's good to see that he'll be one of our coaches for the University World Team.
What the hell is Nebraska going to do with its middle weights next year? I'm not sure if this tournament means that James Green is a 149 next year, but I would think it definitely shows that he's too small for 165. That means that Nebraska has two weights for three very good wrestlers in Green, Destin McCauley and Jake Sueflohn. I guess this is the kind of problem that Mark Manning wants to have in Lincoln.
I said it before, Ohio State's Nick Heflin should have gotten the award for the most absurdly oversized wrestler at his weight last year in Division I wrestling. I have no clue how he made 174, and the fact that he was only slightly undersized at 211 pounds this past weekend says a great deal about just how big he actually is. He'll be interesting to watch next year at 197. That duck of his will be more effective when he's not trying to hit it under the arms of someone like Matt Brown, where Nick would be working to fit underneath a space about a foot off the ground.
Finally the new rules make freestyle wrestling (I didn't catch much of the Greco) into a fantastic spectator sport. I've heard complaints that there are too many tech falls, but I think that the jury is still out on this, and something that makes wrestling events move faster probably helps the sport in the end. Additionally, I think allowing multiple moves on one hold may be the one wild card which allows for the possibility of some dramatic and unexpected upsets; wrestling needs its Cinderella stories. Overall, though, the new rules felt like a breath of fresh air for a sport that has been buried under the debris of disastrous regulation for far too long.
Let's all hope wrestling survives the next couple days.